GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

Interview with Luke Porter, Coordinator, University Bike Centre


Can you tell me a bit about the University Bike Centre?

The CSA Bike Centre is a Do it Yourself Learning Centre where people can come to fix their bikes, on their own if they know how, or with help from one of our volunteers. At the Bike Center, there are parts and sometimes whole bikes that are free to take (Donations are appreciated). People who don’t have a bike can come in, fix one up so that it is rideable and ride away with it. We have a wide selection of used parts, and we also have new parts that are available at a discounted rate.

The Bike Centre is open year round, but check the Facebook page for hours as they change seasonally.

We run workshops periodically every semester and also do them by request. They are open to everyone and cover a wide range of skills. People can bring their own bike or they can practice on ours. Our workshops run the gambit from basic bike maintenance to bottom bracket disassembly.

The Bike Centre is part of the University of Guelph Central Student Association. It is funded through undergraduate student fees and donations from users. Our mandate is to get more people (especially students) riding their bikes as a main form of transportation.

How did you get interested in fixing bikes?

I got interested in fixing bikes when I started working at a summer camp called Camp Adventureland. As a leader in training, I loved helping the mountain biking staff with bike rides and bike fixes, I really looked up to them. Over time I became a camp councillor in training, and continued to move up the ranks until I became the camp’s Mountain Biking Director. In college, I studied Outdoor Adventure and tourism.  We had a course dedicated to learning to fix bikes and lead bike tours; this cemented in me my love of cycling and bike mechanics.



Why is riding a bike important to you?

It’s important to me, both for environment and fitness reasons. When I was younger, it was the only way I got around to the school and trails.  Now, even though I can drive, cycling is always the preferred method for getting around.

Where do you go on the bike?

When I was younger, I lived on the Gorba trails. I went up and down and back and forth on those trails. These days I stick mainly to the hidden trails that snake through the south end of Guelph. Even though they’re in suburbs, I feel like I’m lost in nature. I’ve since transitioned to road biking. Back and forth from school, downtown or to the Guelph Grotto are common trips for me.

When do you use the car?

I use the car when I need to haul around extra people, or when I need to go farther distances. In the dead of winter too I opt for the car or bus.

Do you find yourself trying to convert non-cyclists or recreationalists to this life?

Not directly, but indirectly, yes.  Just talking about my beliefs usually isn’t effective, be it politics or cycling or anything else, I don’t think direct conversion is very effective. I share my passion, instead of pushing it on my friends, I find just telling people why I like something (instead of why they should) gets people interested. I had two friends last semester and neither of them had bikes.  I said, “Let me just show you the bike centre.” They ended up getting bike and now they cycle all the time.

What factors do you see determining whether these folks remain committed drivers or give bikes a try?

If they have access to the car, it’s easier to go by car, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Others don’t become cyclists because it’s scary on the road. They need access to consistent bike lanes.  The ones that are on Stone Road are the best ones by far because the raised area that is so obviously for bikes.

How did you come to your current bike set-up? How does it work?

The two that I ride consistently are a converted mountain bike and a road bike. The converted mountain bike is Trek that has been fitted with bald tires, a pannier rack and has had its shocks locked out – it’s my trusty pack mule. My other bike is an Eclipse road bike that I bought last fall. It’s my first true road bike and I was amazed at the difference it makes.

What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?

I think there needs to be efforts by both politicians and advocacy groups. There needs to be increased attention to climate change and the positive effects cycling can have. A more constructive dialogue between cyclists and driver is also a key component. The last key is more bike lanes (preferably the ones like we have on Stone Road)


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